Bribery Trial Could Reshape Senate

“The first U.S. senator to face bribery charges in nearly four decades goes on trial Wednesday in a case that could affect the Senate’s partisan makeup and the fate of President Trump’s legislative agenda,” NBC News reports.

“If Menendez is convicted, he would likely resist any calls to resign. If he were to step down this year, his successor would be appointed by New Jersey’s current governor, Chris Christie, giving the Republicans an additional Senate seat — which could be key to passing White House-backed Republican health care legislation that failed by one vote.”

“If Menendez were to resign after Jan. 16, the appointment would be made by the state’s newly elected governor, likely to be a Democrat.”

Prosecutors Say Menendez Led Bribery Scheme

Federal prosecutors say that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) allegedly starting taking bribes from a wealthy donor shortly after he entered the Senate in 2006, Politico reports.

“Menendez’s bribery and corruption trial is set to begin next week. In preparation for that, Justice Department prosecutors filed a new document Wednesday laying out their case against the New Jersey senator, as well as Dr. Salomon Melgen, his alleged co-conspirator. Melgen has already been convicted in a separate case of bilking Medicare but has not been sentenced yet.”

Christie Won’t Appoint Himself to Senate Seat

Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he probably wouldn’t appoint himself to the U.S. Senate if Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) were to resign following his federal corruption trial, Politico reports.

Said Christie: “I don’t see that happening. I really do believe that some of us are built for executive positions and some of us are built for legislative positions. I think I’m much more of an executive branch kind of guy.”

For members: Democrats Have a Lot Riding on a Corruption Trial

FBI Searched Office of Lawmaker’s Campaign Treasurer

FBI agents searched the office of Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) campaign treasurer in February, “seizing computer equipment and documents related to their investigation into whether Hunter misused campaign funds,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“The warrant said agents were looking for evidence relating to whether the GOP representative’s campaign funds were used for personal reasons, whether there was a scheme to defraud a bank over video game purchases and whether Hunter’s campaign finance reports were falsified to ‘impede or influence’ the FBI or House Ethics Committee inquiries into his use of campaign funds.”

Prosecutors Inquired About Schock’s Sex Life

“Defense attorneys for former congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) have asked a federal judge to dismiss the criminal charges against him, arguing in a court filing Tuesday that investigators acted inappropriately in the case, including by exploring Schock’s sex life and whether he was gay,” the Washington Post reports.

Said the laywers: “It is no secret that there has long been speculative gossip in the media about Mr. Schock’s sexual orientation. For no apparent reason, the government has felt itself compelled to investigate this too.”

Aide Admits Funneling Money Between Campaigns

An aide to one of Rep. Bob Brady’s (D-PA) former political rivals admitted to engaging in an alleged scheme that helped remove a challenger to the congressman’s 2012 re-election bid, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

“Carolyn Cavaness told a federal judge that she helped funnel $90,000 from Brady’s campaign fund to the campaign coffers of his Democratic primary opponent, former Philadelphia Municipal Judge Jimmie Moore. The payments were intended to cover Moore’s political debts in exchange for a promise that he would drop out of the race… The payments were allegedly routed through two political consultants, who created false invoices to generate a paper trail intended to justify the payments from Brady’s campaign committee.”

Brady referred questions to his political consultant: “They did all that. That’s five years ago. I don’t remember none of that.”

Buck Rips GOP Leadership In New Book

In his new book, Drain the Swamp, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) “describes a money-hungry, lobbyist-influenced Republican leadership,” Roll Call reports.

“He recounts in detail the contributions that House Republicans are expected to forward to their campaign arm as dues to serve on congressional committees. Lesser committee spots, such as the Judiciary panel, will set a freshman lawmaker back $220,000, Buck writes, while ‘A’ committees, such as Ways and Means, require dues of $450,000.”

Writes Buck: “Members are required to pay for committee assignments. Lobbyists, corporations, and wealthy individuals who need something from Congress raise the money.”

He also said “he’s heard third hand of instances when people may have allowed political donations to sway their votes.”

Hunter Insists He Broke No Laws

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) — “under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over alleged campaign violations — insists he did nothing wrong,” Politico reports.

“Hunter won’t say who is responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in campaign charges for personal expenses, but he says it wasn’t him and he’s broken no laws.”

Said Hunter: “I was not involved in any criminal action. Maybe I wasn’t attentive enough to my campaign. That’s not a crime.”

Schock Staffer Was FBI Informant

“The FBI wired a congressional staffer and turned him into a secret informant during its investigation into former Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-IL) alleged misuse of government and campaign funds,” The Hill reports.

“The staffer, who is not named, secretly taped conversations with Schock and people working in his office while Schock was still a member of Congress, according to a 30-page motion and attached memo that cites documents from the court discovery process.”

“Schock was indicted last year on 24 counts related to alleged misuse of government and campaign funds. His trial is set to begin this summer.”

Supreme Court Refuses to Dismiss Menendez Charges

“The Supreme Court has rejected Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) attempt to throw out the bribery and corruption charges against him, setting the stage for a trial for the New Jersey Democrat this fall,” Politico reports.

“With Monday’s announcement, Menendez can no longer block the proceedings against him from moving forward, a major setback for his efforts to avoid criminal trial.”

Schneiderman Steps Up Scrutiny of Trump

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), “to date one of the most vocal antagonists of President Donald Trump, is preparing to escalate his office’s litigation against the president’s administration,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Schneiderman “has hired one of the top public-corruption prosecutors under former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to focus specifically on issues involving the Trump administration. Howard Master, who prosecuted the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s case against longtime New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver , is expected to work on both continuing and new White House-related matters for the attorney general, as well as on high-level public-corruption cases.”

Massive Influence Peddling Investigated in South Carolina

Charleston Post & Courier: “An investigation into corruption at the Statehouse has taken aim at South Carolina’s command-and-control center – a network of power brokers and lawmakers who, if the allegations are true, milked the system of hundreds of thousands of dollars by skirting the state’s loose ethic laws.”

“The probe… has the potential to challenge the state’s political power structure in ways even deeper than the Lost Trust sting in the 1990s. Though scandalous, the Lost Trust cases targeted lawmakers who could be bought with small amounts of money – lawmakers who held relatively little power in the General Assembly.”

“This one has targeted the state’s top players, most recently, the respected state Sen. John Courson. It involves dollar signs that make Lost Trust look like chump change.”